Australian man jailed for 12 years in Vietnam on terrorism charges

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Chau Van Kham is escorted into court by policeImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Chau Van Kham (left) - a Sydney resident and retired baker - is a member of US-based human rights group Viet Tan

A court in Vietnam has sentenced a 70-year-old Australian citizen to 12 years in prison on charges of terrorism.

Chau Van Kham, a retired baker, belongs to the human rights group Viet Tan, which the Vietnam government considers a terrorist organization.

He is accused of recruiting members for the group, raising funds for "anti-state activity" and joining anti-Vietnam protests in Australia.

In court, he denied conducting any terrorist acts, his lawyer said.

"His activities were peaceful," he said.

Viet Tan dismissed the case as a "sham trial" and accused Vietnam of "criminalizing human rights advocacy". The group said Kham was in Vietnam to conduct civil rights research when he was arrested in January.

Human Rights Watch said that Vietnam had "handed down what is essentially a death sentence", given Chau Van Kham's age.

"He has been incarcerated on bogus, politically motivated charges that demonstrate just how fearful Vietnam is about people exercising their rights and demanding genuine democracy," said the group's deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.

The court ordered that Chau Van Kham, who fled his home country on a boat after the Vietnam War and arrived in Australia in 1983, be deported following his prison term.

Despite making many liberal economic reforms, Vietnam remains a one-party Communist state that regularly jails dissidents.

In its 2019 world report, Human Rights Watch said Vietnam's "appalling human rights record worsened" last year, as the government sentenced dissidents to longer prison terms, ordered attacks on human rights defenders and passed laws that further threatened freedom of expression.

Media caption,

One of Vietnam's most famous bloggers, "Mother Mushroom", was jailed before being exiled to US